Religion plays a boundless role in the socialization of every society; because of that, and regardless of our beliefs, each one of us should care about the status of religious liberty. Research has shown that religion impacts societal and individual health.
“…adolescents who frequently attend religious services and have a high level of spiritual support from others in their community have the lowest levels of depression.” Similarly, another study showed that, “…[S]tudents who attended religious activities weekly or more frequently were found to have a GPA 14.4 percent higher than students who never attended.”
These two demographics alone speak loudly for the importance of religious practice, and those are but two of hundreds of similar statistics.
It should come as no surprise to you when I say that some religious beliefs and practices do not align with the popular and seemingly general opinion of America. But, that’s the beauty of being an American, isn’t it? It means that you and I can agree to disagree; that our beliefs or our ways of life do not need to align completely in order for us to live in harmony. The beauty of being an American lies in the fact that we are free from oppression, dominance and coercion. Or, at least that was an American ideal.
We are shifting toward an air of intimidation and uniform equality. That is to say that Americans should live, behave and view life all in the same way. May I be so bold as to point out that if these are your ideals, they surely did not originate in the principles that founded America.
It’s time to regain a sense of unity. Being joined together for a common purpose, by common feelings; feelings of respect despite differences and harmony in the face of disagreement. Our policies and our laws need to reflect a win-win scenario. Someone I admire recently said that laws are created for the good of the whole, and rarely for the good of an individual alone. Shouldn’t the liberties of all, and not just a few be protected and defended?
Utah’s recent Antidiscrimination and Religious Freedom Amendment Bill did this well, holding gender identity as something of value and importance to its citizens, stating that, "[One’s] gender identity is [a] sincerely held, part of a person's core identity.” While still respecting the liberties and beliefs of religious parties and individuals by affirming that, “An employee may express the employee's religious or moral beliefs and commitments in the workplace…”
Conversely, an attitude of discord and antagonism is fostered in this statement by Senator Hilary Clinton last year at the Women in the World Summit Conference. In her keynote address she stated that, “…deep seeded cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”
This “us vs. them” mentality has got to go. America cannot thrive while it is fighting an internal battle. It is possible for people of different moral codes to coexist and cooperate without forcing views on one another.
Each of us have many friends and family members with whom we do not entirely agree with on any number of subjects, yet we love and cherish the relationships that we have with these people; because they are built on a foundation of respect understanding. It is not mandatory that we all see eye to eye, but that we operate from the same basic framework.
Religion’s truest practices only impact society positively, weather you worship or not, this fact should cause you to question policies that do not protect freedom of belief, conscious or practice- for every party. Everyone should be free to live according to the dictates of their conscience, in a society that protects liberty and justice for all.